As we say often, the Learning Cluster Design model is “built on the shoulders of giants.” Our goal in creating the LCD model was not to replace existing L&D models and philosophies, but rather elevate them in a more modern context. Where learning practitioners were once beholden to one way of designing learning, the LCD model offers an integrative framework that capitalizes on the strengths of existing L&D models towards a new goal, unique to LCD – building learning clusters made up of learning assets.

Agile is one philosophy that LCD model works with well and can even make more powerful. Here’s the 10 SAFe principles (thanks to Donna Hogan from ScaledAgile and past LCD Practicum participants):

  1. Take an economic view
  2. Apply systems thinking
  3. Assume variability; preserve options
  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
  5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  9. Decentralize decision-making
  10. Organize around value

One way the model takes learning into the modern age is the fact that it is both fluid and iterative, which directly ties into Agile principles #3 and #4. Whereas many models have defined steps and clear “start and stops,” the LCD model is designed to be able to “shapeshift” – not only to keep up with the demand of organizational nuances, but to account for nuances in both the learning designer(s) and the learners themselves. We deliberately do not have a five step model, but a five Action model.

Below are three examples of how you can apply the LCD model in a more non-linear Agile fashion.

Start with the end in mind.The first action of the model is the Change Action, where we expand our thought process beyond traditional enabling and terminal objectives and move to higher order thinking in what we call a Strategic Performance Objective (SPO). By doing so, we are Organizing Around Value (principle #10) and Basing Milestones on Objective Evaluations of Working Systems (principle #5). In the SPO, we focus on 4 main areas: stating the capability gap; identifying target audience; defining KPIs; and outlining changes in on-the-job behavior. The latter two – KPIs and on-the-job behavior changes – require us to “start with the end mind,” which in this case, is the Track Action. We encourage all modern learning designers to consider how they will measure the success of their learning cluster before they build it. So, while the Track Action can feel like the “last” action in the LCD model, it’s really a great place to start!

Move beyond formal.
In the Surround Action of the LCD model, we move beyond traditional L&D norms of only offering formal learning, and explore how, in addition to formal, we can create both social and immediate learning assets that meet our learners needs, when and where they need it most. Modern learning designers who are very short on time and resources can begin here by introducing learning assets that move beyond “one-and-done” formal learning experiences and provide learners with social and immediate assets. This could be as simple as piloting a new channel on a community platform like Slack or providing access to a relevant podcast. While, ideally, thoroughly completing the Change and Learn Actions give you the data for which assets to try, by jumping to acting on your first hunches for new assets, you can start to gauge learner reactions and use that feedback to iterate new learning assets. Just remember these are hunches! And don’t set the assets in stone.

Modernize what you currently have.
Short on time and don’t have the resources to create all new assets? Start with the Upgrade Action. Many L&D practitioners start here to quickly redesign the experience for existing learning assets. Utilizing the Nine Elements of Modern Learning, learning designers can efficiently measure the “modernness score” of their current learning assets, and make just a handful of tweaks to not only make it more modern, but more impactful as well. Like starting with the Surround Action, if you are starting with the Upgrade Action, you’ll want to gauge learner reactions to your upgrades as you begin to make changes to identify where you should continue your efforts, and what you may be able to leave as is. If it’s not broken, we don’t have to fix it.

What this means is that there is no one “right” way to use the LCD model. Many modern learning practitioners follow the model step-by-step, whereas others embrace a more “choose your own adventure” approach based on organizational demands and time constraints. This model is designed to give you freedom and flexibility to work within your capabilities to meet the demands of your stakeholders, while impacting change in on-the-job behaviors of your learners.

In addition to the individual Actions, the overall philosophy of the LCD model embraces a much more dynamic notion of learning in organizations. Rather than static one-and-done assets cluttering up libraries, the LCD model strongly encourages learning creators to revise, iterate, and evolve constantly based on changing business objectives and learner personas. This is exactly what our dynamic business and learner environments are looking for and why Agile + LCD model is a powerful combination for learning leaders.

We’d love to hear from you – what are some non-linear ways you’ve applied the LCD model? What was your approach and why?